CULTURE: Wider Stage Beckons for New Chinese Talent; Chinese Pianist Chenyin Li, Winner of the Dudley Millennium Piano Competition, Talks to Christopher Morley about the Pros and Cons of Competitive Music-Making

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Byline: Christopher Morley

There are those who view music competitions as artificial showcases with little to do with the genuine demands of a performing career.

Others, however, see them as a useful means of bringing performers' names to public notice, a threshold through which to step upon the wider stage.

Among the latter is pianist Chenyin Li, already a prizewinner in many events back home in China, in Spain, New Zealand, and here in England, where, among other accolades, she recently won the Dudley Millennium Piano Competition.

'I think for people like me, who've only recently come to England and haven't been heard in musical circles and who want to be heard and get more engagements, it's the way for people to gain recognition and eventually lead to more concerts, which is the goal everyone wants to achieve,' Miss Li tells me at her London home.

Technically, the 24-year-old finds little difference between preparing for a competition and preparing for a recital. 'But the psychological preparation is for me a little bit different.'

Is there any particular kind of repertoire towards which Chenyin Li feels automatically drawn?

'It's curious enough that it's in my character that I always feel drawn to those pieces that seem more distant from me.

'In other words, it's more of a challenge for me to get through the difficulties or the unfamiliarities.

'I think in the general way I still need to have the standard programming (which for pianists nowadays is already huge), to have a very solid base; and then gradually to find what I would like to specialise in.

'Pianists at my age really need to go through a huge amount of the classical works.'

A major factor in Li's determination to acquire this bread-and-butter grounding is her arriving from a different culture, where such a body of repertoire is not automatically assumed. …